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9.1 Assessment, monitoring and information needs

  1. Assessment of the nutritional situation in armed conflicts should be designed to clearly bring out programme concerns to assist in the development of better responses to the nutritional needs of children living in these situations. It should identify all important factors that might contribute to malnutrition in an affected area, including an analysis of the food economy of the area, disease trends, health and sanitary conditions as well as caring practices. Where possible, information on the situation before the conflict should be obtained.

  2. When identifying the causes of malnutrition, one should consider which nutritional outcomes are the direct result of the conflict; which outcomes may be exacerbated by the conflict; and which may have contributed to the initiation of the conflict.

  3. Assessments should aim at developing a better understanding of the coping strategies people use in different phases of the conflict. This is essential in designing useful relief interventions and capacity building programmes.

  4. Caring practices should be given more consideration in needs assessments and programme design, including protection and support of breast-feeding and weaning practices. The impact of conflict on women in terms of their workload, changes in their role in the household and changes in their status as care providers to the children should be considered more consistently.

  5. The quality of assessments, that is, the quality of data and methods of data collection, should continue to be improved and standardised for meaningful comparisons among sets of data collected by different organizations and at different times. This will allow implementing agencies to ensure that the most appropriate types of interventions are put into place and that impartiality of relief efforts is guaranteed.

9.2 Responses to control and prevent malnutrition in armed conflicts

  1. In designing programmes in response to malnutrition, the long term impact of undernutrition on the growth and development of the child as well as acute malnutrition should be considered worthy of an emergency response. The future quality of life of the child, and the impact on the social and economic development of society should be taken into account as well in designing appropriate responses.

  2. As households are the most important entity to ensure both the survival and nutritional welfare of children during the armed conflicts, programmes to protect, promote and restore the nutritional status of children should be designed to maintain the integrity of the households and to make them economically and socially viable.

  3. Food relief should not be considered in isolation, it should be considered as part of a wider strategy aimed at improving the short, mid and long-term prospects for improving the nutritional situation of children and their families.

  4. Supplementary feeding programmes should not stand alone, instead they should be part of a strategy aimed at improving the nutritional status of children both in the short and long term.

  5. In the provision of emergency relief, more emphasis should be given to the rehabilitation of agriculture, livestock and fisheries to enhance local capacities to meet the community's food needs and to improve household food security.

  6. The nutritional problems of lost and orphaned children should be given priority and this should be done in a culturally appropriate fashion as they are the people who are most vulnerable to malnutrition and death.

  7. Programme design should be flexible to take into consideration the impact of constant or recurring insecurity and violence on programme development. Programmes should be designed to take advantage of periods of calm and should improve the capacity of the population to survive periods of crisis. Novel approaches to working in conflict situations need to be constantly developed and refined for each specific situation.

  8. Given the long term nature of the responses which are required in conflict situations, programmes should concentrate on using and strengthening local capacity and skills in all sectors. At all levels of society, local structures through which to work should be identified and there should be considerably more local involvement in decision making processes. More resources for relief assistance should be allocated to the development of local capacity.

  9. Efforts should be made to create and to strengthen national and local capacities to respond adequately to acute emergencies and at the same time address some of the underlying causes of malnutrition among children existing in the society.

  10. There is a general need to develop methods for monitoring the impact of conflict on populations to anticipate, to some extent, the nutritional consequences of different types of conflict for children and to allow rapid identification and implementation of programmes to cater to both their short term and long term nutritional needs.

  11. Measurement of the impact of programmes should shift from purely examining prevailing levels of malnutrition and mortality at specific points in time to monitoring the changes people experience over a longer time frame.

9.3 Further recommendations

  1. Averting or stopping conflict will do more to help children and to prevent widespread acute malnutrition than any intervention implemented during armed conflict. Therefore, more efforts and resources should be concentrated on conflict resolution, both in countries suffering from armed conflict and in countries affected by internal violence that could eventually lead to armed conflict.

  2. There is a need to identify ways of working in areas which are outside the control of government or where there is no government. Supporting children throughout the conflict should be a priority. State sovereignty should not be invoked to block relief assistance to needy children.

  3. Blockades of food supplies should be internationally banned as this will infringe on the recognised right of the child to adequate food and nutrition.

  4. During armed conflicts, parties involved in the conflict should refrain from the destruction of food crops and agricultural infrastructure in minimize disruption of food supplies and production potential.

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